Will Smith may not have penned a song about Bournemouth, but there’s definitely a party till the break of dawn at the Nici, the town’s longed-for stylish seaside stay. This breezy beach-facing retreat has all the cool of the capital, via a stopover in Miami, with billowing cabanas by the (obviously heated) pool, flowing cocktails and a private cinema. The activity centre will arm you with every kind of board you might need and you’ll be within walking distance of the town’s legendary (possibly not for all the right reasons) nightlife, the pier and its tacky (but loveable) arcade, and the gleefully named Upper and Lower Pleasure Gardens.
11am, but flexible for £15 an hour up until 2pm. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £199.00, including tax at 20 per cent.
Rates usually include breakfast.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, cinema, Sunday yoga classes, bicycles, activity centre with kayaks and paddle-boards to borrow, croquet, outdoor ping-pong table, gym. In rooms: TV, minibar, beach bags, Nespresso coffee machine and Tea Pig teabags, and Malin + Goetz bath products.
Our favourite rooms
One of the South Coast’s most famous sights – the polar-bear outline of the Isle of Wight (and Old Harry Rocks, for that matter) – is visible from some of the suites, so book wisely if you want to observe it from bed. If you’re bringing a pet, go for a Garden Suite, which has the added bonus (for humans) of a hot tub on the terrace.
The temperatures may be more British than Bahamian, but the 30-metre pool wouldn’t look out of place in the Caribbean, and it’s heated. Stake out a striped sunlounger or cabana from 8am to 8pm.
Set back from the hustle, the Nici's spacious spa has eight treatment rooms, an 18-metre indoor pool, steam room, aromatherapy sauna and a relaxation room with crystal-charged loungers. Treatments are bespoke (think bamboo massages and sound therapy) so just let the masseurs know any preferences, and there's a small yoga studio and gym for those who fancy some post-massage movement.
Bring whatever you’d take to the beach, but make it British (windbreakers, wellies and brollies may be necessary).
Popcorn and pick ’n’ mix accompany the daily screenings at the Nici’s 13-seat cinema.
Dogs are welcome to stay in the Garden Suites – the hotel charges £30 a night for each pet and provides beds and bowls. Pets are allowed on the terrace and in the piano lounge, but not in the bar, restaurant or pool area. See more pet-friendly hotels in Bournemouth.
All ages are welcome and cots can be added to some of the rooms. There’s an unsupervised playroom with books and games that’s open from 9am to 8pm. There are special activities for kids during the school holidays, plus child-friendly screenings every day.
Head out to the terrace or stick to your sunlounger.
No (Big Willy-style) magenta shirts and white trousers necessary.
South Beach is bright, breezy and full of botanical prints. The all-day dining menu includes fish and chips (obviously), a house burger and vegan sushi; and you’ll also be able to enjoy sharing steaks and spatchcock chicken. Breakfast has both continental and cooked-to-order options.
The mixology may steal the show at the bar, but it also has a serious whisky selection. Cocktail curveballs include sundried-tomato mezcal, mulled-wine syrup and buttermilk.
Breakfast is served between 7am and 10.30am. An all-day menu can be ordered from between 12pm and 11pm, with afternoon-tea served from 3pm to 5pm. The poolside food and drinks menu is served from 12pm until 7pm.
Sandwiches are available around the clock, with a fuller room-service menu on offer between midday and 9pm.
The Nici is in the South Coast town of Bournemouth, within walking distance of the centre and right by the beach.
Bournemouth has its own boutique airport, but you’re more likely to land somewhere a little more sizeable, such as Southampton or even London.
The rail station in town is served by trains from London Waterloo, as well as cross-country services from places including Oxford, Birmingham and Manchester. Taxis shouldn’t take much more than five minutes and will cost around £7.50; it’s a 20-minute walk to the Nici from the station.
You’ll be within walking distance of the town centre (and even closer to the beach and pier), so you won’t need wheels – but if you do want to explore the South Coast and the New Forest, a car will come in handy. Parking in the hotel’s car park costs £10 a night.
Ferries call in to Poole Harbour from the Channel Islands, and Cherbourg and St Malo in France.
Worth getting out of bed for
It’s a matter of minutes to Bournemouth’s award-winning sandy beaches – and the hotel has an activity centre so you can hit the shore equipped with suitable paraphernalia (paddle-boards, kayaks and so on, all free to borrow). There are weekly yoga classes in the garden on Sunday mornings (indoors in the winter); bicycles to pedal down the promenade on; and the gardens have a croquet lawn, ping-pong table and other games to play. Staff will also be able to furnish you with beach bags, towels and picnics for Great British seaside days, with a pier and arcade ready for added kitsch factor.
Walk along the seafront to West Beach for lobsters, mussels and most other types of seafood; if you’ve timed your visit well, there’ll also be some tables set up on the sand. For Thai food over the road from the Nici, wander across Tiien; or work up an appetite on a walk down to surfers’ paradise Urban Reef, near Boscombe Pier. Further still, Roots in Southbourne is garnering a reputation for itself, and with good reason.
Bournemouth is justifiably popular with stag and hen dos, but for somewhere slightly more salubrious, try the Sky Bar and enjoy cocktails with a view. Late nights, live music and an excellent whisky selection awaits at Smokin’ Aces, also within stumbling-home distance.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this seaside hotel on the South Coast and unpacked their buckets and spades, a full account of their beach break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside the Nici in Bournemouth…
Bournemouth has been crying out for the Nici for ages. Amid the dusty grande dames lining the seafront, sunseekers visiting the unofficial English Riviera have had a hard time succeeding in a search for stylish interiors. Enter the Nici, revamping an aforementioned grand old hotel for a modern crowd, and located on a clifftop in the centre of town. The staff know all about the Great British seaside and are ready to dispatch all its accoutrements from bicycles, various boards and buckets, to spades and sandwiches. From some of the rooms, you’ll be able to see the Isle of Wight’s famously polar-bear-shaped cliffs, Old Harry Rocks and the Purbecks. Better still, some have terraces with hot tubs to enjoy the view, regardless of the British weather. The Channel Island bay has one of the UK’s warmest sea temperatures, so there’s no excuse not to swim – especially when you’ll be able to warm up afterwards beside a fire-pit with marshmallows and cocktails. It may be pronounced ‘the Nicky’ (and definitely not ‘the Nitch-y’), but we like to think of it as ‘the Nice-y’.